Bling and flash cars out for footballer who finds it boring
Middlesbrough's latest signing is different from his team-mates - and not only because he'll be leaving in six weeks' time. Scott Wilson met Dave Kitson and discovered a footballer who is proud to stand apart from the crowd. IT'S Thursday at Middlesbrough's Rockliffe Park training ground, and it's the morning after the handball the night before. Unsurprisingly, everybody has an opinion about what happened. Gordon Strachan thinks Thierry Henry has been unfairly pilloried. An apple-eating Matthew Bates couldn't believe the referee missed such a blatant piece of cheating. And the rest of Boro's coaching staff are awaiting Sean St Ledger's return in order to check on the Irishman's state of mind. So what does Dave Kitson, the club's latest loan signing, make of the previous night's events Oh, I can't watch football, said the striker, reclining in his chair. The only football I can really watch is England, and even then that's only really when they're in a competition and the rest of my mates want to watch it. It becomes a social event rather than a game of football. The rest of it, I wouldn't bother with at all. God no. I guess it just bores me. You can certainly have too much of it. Crikey, it was hard to see that one coming. Clearly, this is not going to be your average football interview, but then Kitson, a former Sainsbury's shelf-stacker, whose first move took him from Arlesey Town to Cambridge United, is hardly your average footballer. Softly-spoken, thoughtful and erudite, the 29-year-old is a polar opposite to the kings of bling who increasingly populate Premier League and Championship dressing rooms the length and breadth of the land. For most of his footballing life, he didn't own a car. He detests ostentatious displays of jewellery, and eschews designer labels and expensive clothes. And unlike the vast majority of his peers, he regards football as a job like any other rather than an all-consuming way of life. With interviews being ever more strictly controlled, and players increasingly reluctant to say anything that has not been approved by their advisors and sponsors, most pre-match chats descend into little more than professions of I love football'. Spend half-an-hour in Kitson's company, though, and it's clear there is plenty about the game he detests. At the end of the day, it's a job, he explained. And you can have too much of any job, it doesn't matter how good it is. It's nice for me because I know that when I finish playing football, I won't be one of those bitter and twisted old footballers. I'll be thinking, That was part of my life now it's time to move on to something else'. I think if you finish as a footballer when you're 34 or 35, then eventually you can only say that football was the only thing you did with your life, even though you stopped doing it when you were 35, that's very, very sad indeed. I actually look forward to starting my life when football has finished. But how does that mindset square with the prevailing attitude whereby football must be the be all and end all of a player's existence Might Kitson's refusal to conform to the perceived norm not be a factor in his failure to establish himself at Stoke City following a club-record £5.5m move in July 2008 The striker refutes any suggestion of a bust-up with the Potters' coaching staff, but it is hard to imagine the likes of Tony Pulis and Peter Reid, traditionalists schooled in an era when lateral thinking was all-butoutlawed, being too impressed with a character who, by his own admission, has little in common with his team-mates in the dressing room. And how would former Sunderland manager Roy Keane have felt about Kitson To Keane, football was an all-consuming beast. Live it, breathe it, move on to the next game. Could Keane, the eternal competitor, have tolerated a player who was desperate to get home and switch off I can see that, said Kitson, after his approach to life was compared to the mindset of someone like Keane. But I do believe that there comes a level when football stops being enjoyable. That's probably when you're going to win trophies every single week and the pressure is just outrageous. I've seen those guys (like Keane) after they lose, and that doesn't look like a very fun job to me. I lose a game of football and it hurts every footballer will tell you there's nothing worse than losing but I go home to my family and live the rest of my life. I think those guys go home to their thoughts, and I think that's a dangerous world to be in. To Kitson, family life is far more important than football, to the extent that any future move from Stoke will largely be dictated by geography rather than league position or wage structure. Today's home game with Nottingham Forest marks the start of a six-week loan spell at Middlesbrough, but it will not herald a shortterm switch that eventually becomes permanent. No disrespect to the Teessiders, but with his wife having carved out her own professional life in London, a full-time move to the Riverside is impractical. And after his partner supported him when he hardly had a penny at Cambridge, Kitson is not about to dictate living arrangements just because he has risen through the rankings. There are reasons now why a permanent deal would be very, very difficult, he said. It would affect more people than me, and that's not fair. My family's carved out its own life away from football. My wife has a very good job in London, she's worked really hard to get and it wouldn't be fair for her to leave at this stage. Our family are a little bit different to some others in the game. I wasn't in football when I was in 16, so I've never been in a position where I felt I had to say You follow me'. For a lot of years, she had her career and I didn't have one. We don't forget that.
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